‘Cause it’s time to open up! The media channels, tradition and non alike, have been flooded in the past week with major IT ecosystem leaders falling all over themselves to be open.
First came Microsoft’s announcement free open season movie download
that they were publishing 30,000 pages of documentation on their APIs to be used for non-commercial purposes free of charge. They added that they will be expanding the documentation library as time goes on to include a greater percentage of their API set, but they declined to say how much they were opening with the initial doc set and how close they would get to complete disclosure.
Then came Yahoo’s announcement that they are working on an open search platform. The ‘searchmonkey’ platform will allow third parties to enhance the core Yahoo search engine by adding their own information to search results. For example combining text results with image results into a single entry in a listing. I’m sure that once developers get their hands on the platform we’ll see a lot more ingenious uses.
While these moves may look from the outside like they are on the same vector, they are driven by very different strategies.
In Microsoft’s case, their opening up is an admission of defeat. They have finally realized that proprietary software is not the future and hAvenue finally cleared out enough of the old guard to be able to admit it publicly without damaging any particular executives’ psyche. If they want any piece of the pie moving forward, it’s not going to be part of a walled garden. Now that’s not all bad for Microsoft, since the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. The pressure created by opening up and allowing outsiders to innovate will drive their engineers to do more better things than any manager yelling at them to meet their objectives. If the Microsoft developers can’t do something better than the market, then there will be no need for those developers. Of course, the black hat view of Microsoft says they will just wait for some innovations to develop outside and then steal them into the land of proprietary code. I don’t think that’s likely to happen, but if it does it may show once and for all that Microsoft just doesn’t ‘get it’.
In Yahoo’s case, the move to an open search engine is a proactive move. It may still be a move of desperation, but it does show some signs of a specific and deliberate strategy – specifically make your main competitors source of revenue worth less. That is, make search free and while it may not make you any money directly, it will keep Google from making as much as they do (at least that’s the hope). Google did exactly the same thing to Microsoft a few years ago when they started introducing Google Docs (aka Google Office). Microsoft makes a large percentage of its revenue and profit from Office, so although Google isn’t making a lot of money from Google (this is just a guess since in all of my use of the service, I never see any ads), but they are draining away some of the money that would normally go to Microsoft. It’s not going to happen overnight, but there is an increasing portion of the ‘consumer’ market that will never buy Microsoft Office.
So although the popular opinion is that Microsoft is in a position of strength and Yahoo is in dis-array, in the case of these two recent announcements, I would say that Yahoo is acting as the aggressor vs. it competition and Microsoft is waving the white flag.